BUENOS AIRES – Argentine small tenant farmers on Monday in Buenos Aires gave away some 20,000 kilograms (22 tons) of vegetables to protest the precarious labor conditions facing them and the high rents they have to pay on the lands the cultivate.
Dozens of citizens crowded around the cargo trucks of the Workers of the Soil Union (UTT) on the Plaza de Mayo, where a number of farmers wearing t-shirts with the statement “We’re the ones who produce the food” imprinted on them were handing out bags and boxes of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and onions.
This is the second “vegetable give-away” conducted in less than a year, after last September farmers handed out the same quantity of agricultural products after presenting a bill in the Argentine Congress calling for government-financed loans to peasants which they could use to pay the rent on the lands they work.
“In September, we presented a land access bill to be able to produce. We’re all tenant farmers and we’re paying very high rents: between 5,000 and 7,000 pesos ($350-$450). If they don’t authorize a loan for us, we can’t pay,” said Andrea Diaz, one of the producers taking part in the protest.
Before setting up on the Plaza de Mayo, several UTT representatives once again went to Congress on Monday to ask for a meeting with Agroindustry Minister Ricardo Buryaile, whom they accuse of operating to the advantage of large producers, and urge him to speed up the implementation of the law.
“The government is governing for the rich, for the soybean farmers, the corn producers,” said Diaz, who added that the people who feed Argentina are not being “recognized,” despite the precarious conditions under which she said they operate each day.
She said that small producers sell a 20-kilogram box of lettuce for 50 pesos (about $3.20), while in the supermarkets and grocery stores they sell it for that price per kilo.
Miriam Castillo, a retiree, said that her pension doesn’t fully cover the strict diet she must maintain for health reasons, adding that inflation in Argentina was 40 percent last year and, although small farmers receive just “pennies” for their products, those same agricultural goods for sale at the retail level in the capital cost “a fortune.”